PORTO: 10 things you probably don’t know about it
If Porto is on your travel plan, you should know that this beautiful city hides secrets and bizarre stories.
Here are 10 things you probably don't know about Porto:
1. Portugal’s name was given by the city of Porto
Porto is considered to exist as a habitable territory since the Bronze Age. Having passed several populations through it, it’s during the Roman occupation that the name Portus is given to Porto, and to everything outside its walls is called Cale.
During the 8th century, this region was reconquered by the Christians and belonged to Leon (a kingdom that now is part of Spain) until the 12th century. By this time, the area between the Douro - the river that bathes Porto - and Minho - the river that bathes the northern coastal area of Portugal - was given the name of Portucalense County or Portugale. When the county became independent by the first king of Portugal, it wasn’t hard to choose the name for the newly founded country: Portus - Cale - Portucalense County / Portugale - Portugal.
We are still a bit resentful because Lisbon is the capital, though.
2. The Father of the Discoveries was born in Porto
Portugal is known for having been an Empire and started the Age of Discoveries to the New World. What probably is not well known is that the man who initiated the will to go further was born in the Ribeira - riverside - of Porto, in the 14th century, in a house that was also the Customs of the city.
Henrique was his name, the younger son of the Portuguese king D. João I. Knowing that he would never sit at the Portuguese throne, Henrique had dedicated himself to the studies of the stars and the sea and by his will left with the first Portuguese fleet to conquer Northern Africa. This fleet left precisely from Porto.
In one of these journeys, already in the 16th century, the Portuguese on their way to India accidentally discovered Brazil...
3. In Porto we are Tripeiros
Any Portuguese knows Porto as the Invicta city and the people from Porto (Portuenses) as Tripeiros. A Tripeiro is a person who eats tripes! Therefore, we are the tripe-eaters and this nickname comes from the Infante D. Henrique times, born in this city, departed Porto with his fleet on their way to conquer half the world - literally.
It’s said that knowing the difficulties of life in the sea, Henrique asked Porto's people to give all the meat they possessed. And us, proud and generous “portuenses”, in good-will gave it. Was left only the tripes of the animals, to which we added beans and greenery, on a special sauce, and garnished it with rice or potatoes.
Until this date, there isn’t a week where you can’t find tripes in a Porto style - “Tripas à Moda do Porto” - in many of the most typical restaurants.
We are proudly Tripeiros.
4. In Porto, there was a bridge made of… boats!
Porto is bathed by the Douro river, which is born in Spain, and if you want to go south of Porto you need to cross it. On the other side of the river, we have another city: Vila Nova de Gaia (we bet you didn’t know that!).
From that was born the necessity to build a bridge connecting the two cities and the best way that was found was to join about 20 boats, united by ropes.
The existence of the bridge dates the early 19th century. It was destroyed in 1809, during the second French invasion of Portugal, and today we still have a cult to the souls that were lost in the accident that led to the destruction of the bridge.
5. The famous railway station was a convent
The São Bento Railway Station is known for the marvelous artistic work of Jorge Colaço: 20 thousand hand-painted tiles that portray episodes from Portuguese History and Portuguese Lifestyle. Inaugurated in 1916, few know that the building was the old Convent of Saint Benedict of Holy Mary, from Benedict’s Order. By the necessity to modernize the city, the project of Marques da Silva (the architect) would transform the convent into a railway station, but with the restraint of not expelling the nuns that lived there. It’s said in Porto that the delay in the construction was due to the last nun of the order, that lived past 90 years and that she still walks and prays there, like a lost soul.
6. Gustave Eiffel in Porto
Do you know how many bridges are in Porto? Six! And the first was built in 1877 by one of the most famous civil engineers and architects: Gustave Eiffel. If you are thinking about the famous Luís I. bridge, which the architecture very well reminds us of Eiffel well, you are wrong. We are talking about the Maria Pia bridge, a little more inland, with a very similar structure to the Luís I. bridge. Only lacking the inferior tray.
Luís I. bridge was inaugurated 9 years later, not by Eiffel but by one of his Belgium associates: Théophile Seyrig. Ironic that the second is the most famous one isn’t it?
7. Porto houses the heart of a king
Portugal was invaded 3 times by the French in the early 19th century, making the Portuguese Royal family flee to Brazil. Years later, free from the French, but not from the British regency in Portugal, the king returns to Portugal. When the king died in 1826, it was only natural for his oldest son to inherit the throne: Pedro. But Pedro had previously given up the Portuguese throne to rule Brazil, as an independent country. Not wanting to return to Portugal, and to avoid international conflicts, Pedro gave the throne in Portugal to his daughter, Maria, a 9 years old girl, completely unprepared for it.
The plot thickens: it was Pedro’s brother, a very conservative man, named Miguel, who ruled Portugal through his union with Maria by marriage (obviously only political) as a regent king. The conservative Miguel, regent king of Portugal, achieves the support of half the country so that seizes the throne for himself through rebellion. Being acclaimed the king of Portugal he implements a new regiment, almost forgone in the country, the absolutism.
The country was then divided into conservative absolutists and modern liberals initiating a violent civil war, in 1831.
Pedro returns from Brazil to fight alongside the liberals for the throne and for his young daughter.
Porto became the stage of the biggest of the civil war battles. The city was under siege by the absolutists for over a year, the Porto’s people went through huge difficulties when the liberals finally managed to restitute the liberty to Porto.
It’s said that this was only possible due to the resilience of the Tripeiros and so Pedro, the victorious liberal, left in his will that his heart would forever belong to Porto.
Taking this literally when Pedro died, it was only natural that his heart was demanded to be delivered to the city.
And so it happened, until this day the city still holds the heart of the king in formol on the Lapa’s church, far from the population’s eyes.
Every 7 years, it is made a procession where the mayor shows the heart to the city.
You have to be careful with the promises you make in Porto!
|Heart of Pedro|
8. The first Portuguese movie was filmed in Santa Catarina street
It was in Santa Catarina Street, house number 181, that what is considered the first Portuguese movie was filmed: “A Saída do Pessoal Operário da Fábrica Confiança”, in 1896 directed by Aurélio da Paz dos Reis. The movie is a little over 1 minute and it’s mute and black and white.
In the movie, you can see a large number of workers, majorly young women, exiting through the front door of their place of work at the lunch hour. You can see a 2 horse-drawn cart ride with its passengers crossing from the right to the left of the screen and, a few seconds later, an ox-car, crossing in the opposite direction, with its merchandise.
At the same time, the workers keep exiting the factory, giving the sensation of a powerful workforce.
It is a replica from the Lumière Brothers movie “La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon”, directed in 1895.
9. The narrowest house of Portugal is located in Porto
It is literally in the city center, right between two churches, built with a century between them: Carmelites Church - from the 17th century - and the Carmo’s Church - from the 18th century.
This house was built between the two churches, more as an architectural solution since the back chapels from both churches created a null space in their façades. This house became known as the hidden house and it has existed for over 250 years.
It was a residence for the chaplains of the Carmo’s Order but later used as a hidden place for meetings in the most troubled times in the city’s history. For example liberal, Napoleonic invasions, and implementation of the Portuguese Republic meetings.
10. We have the most beautiful McDonalds in the world
Café Imperial: that was how the coffee shop in Praça da Liberdade Square was known, with an Art Deco architecture, opened in the 30s of the 20th century.
It was known as the coffee shop where the men of politics would spend time: it was said that the left-wing men would seat at the right and the right-wing men would seat at the left. Here would mingle men from PIDE (Political police of the dictatorship), men from Censorship, and lawyers that were known to be against the dictatorship.
The cafe was characterized by heated conversations about political events.
In 1995 was transformed into a McDonalds without, fortunately, changing the architecture of the place, maintaining the imposing eagle at its entrance, the chandeliers, the mirrored walls, and the stained glass done by Ricardo Leone.
It was considered, in 2013, the world’s most beautiful McDonalds.
If it's from your interest to walk in the city and learn a little bit more about these stories, you should join this nice local team: City Lovers Tours and do a Free Tour Porto with them!
We'll be waiting for you in Porto.